Typical laconic Coen brothers film with as equal a derivation from Portis’ enjoyable but vastly overrated novel as the 1969 Henry Hathaway original. Although the Coens extract a more pronouncedly acute sense of accuracy in their mise-en-scene, the film also ups the ante on the palpable sense of distancing Western dislocation, not only in it’s eerily serene yet menacing atmosphere of loneliness, but also in the strangely stuttering rhythm of the first two-thirds of the film. Important scenes from the story appear truncated and all important alliances and relationships seem formulated off camera, as if the binding elements of the story, already so commonly known by the popularity of not only the novel but the John Wayne starring vehicle, became secondary to the filmmakers in the wake of their quest for obsessively authentic period duplication. The feel of the era is remarkably depicted down to the slightest blemish or gnarled tooth, but something more important is missing: a central emotional core.
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